Ramila Latpate, a.k.a. Ramabai, has been traveling alone on a bike in a Nauvari saree for the last month, aiming to cover more than 40 countries spanning 6 continents to showcase the Indian culture by distributing Indian artisanal products abroad.
Ramila Latpate was in New Delhi – one of the initial spots in her journey spanning 6 continents – all decked up in a Maharashtrian Nauvari saree with her bike parked when we last spoke to her. After all, Ramabai, the name she goes by, has well planned her one-year-long bike journey and is only available to converse during her halt as the rest of the time is spent on riding the bike around cities with the message of ‘Vasudeva Kutumbakam’ or ‘world is one family’ wherever she goes.
Ramabai, who hails from Pune, started her journey from the famous historical monument, Gateway of India, in Mumbai on March 8, on the occasion of Women's Day aims to reach the summit on March 8, 2024, at the same place. But the journey is not that of a usual world tour but with a purpose which has been named 'RAW': 'Ride Across the World.' "We live in a country with a large population but a diverse culture where people are deeply rooted in their culture. I want to highlight this culture across nations and deliver a message that all of us are the same," said Ramabai.
Talking about the culture, Ramabai has decided to travel across the globe in a Maharashtrian Nauvari saree. First, it represents her Marathi culture but, more so, the traditional Indian clothing of women in India, as she said. Talking about the decision to wear a saree, she said, "Saree has been an integral part of the Indian lifestyle, and I believe people connect more to an initiative when they see a representation of themselves in it."
Travelling for a cause
In the one-year-journey, Ramabai will be travelling to places like Australia, New Zealand, France, New York, Morocco, Dubai, and others, 20 of which form the G20 nations, but there is one thread that binds her expedition, which is to take a "token of love" to foreign lands in the form of local products from India. "With the current potency of our Indian artisans, it is much important for the world also to take notice of it," she said, adding that she will be distributing those products to the people and organizations free of cost. Along with sarees, Ramabai is also carrying bags, décor items, and all other products made by Indian artisans.
To be able to carry her initiative, Ramabai, and her team are connecting with various local and homegrown brands from India. As she is carrying the products as per the feasibility, the majority of the products are being delivered to the place of her travel by her team. "Not only do these artisans lack the platforms to exhibit their products, but they also find it impossible to expose them to the international markets. I aim to meet these challenges for them as much as I can," she said.
Challenges and preparations
Aiming to meet the difficulties for small businesses, Ramabai is equally aware of the challenges that might come her way while travelling alone on the bike. Still, as she has been preparing for the same for the last 8 to 9 months before initiating the journey, she seems ready to tackle all of them. "I have planned my arrival in a few countries at the time when the harsh weather conditions can be avoided,' she said, adding that the route is already planned and the bike will be transferred through the air at a few places. However, she also mentioned the foreseen challenges like crossing sensitive border areas in countries like Myanmar that might pose a threat for her, adding that she has "no plans but to believe in herself to shun such challenges."
Ramabai has also taken extra caution for what she might require in her journey and as she said, a sleeping bag, shoes, slippers, safety gear, and two sets of sarees are available with her every moment during her ride. While she has chosen 'Maheshwari silk' sarees from the store she owns, she has also carried a few from other shops. Moreover, Ramabai said that she trained herself both physically and mentally for the ride. "Mental preparation with meditation is important because it is a huge project and I need to be ready to deal with all kinds of uncertainties coming my way," she said.
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On the other hand, as Ramabai said, there was never a challenge to discuss this plan with her family. "My family has always understood me and supported me even for this journey," she said. "Every parent should believe in their kids and support them in all of their initiatives and plans," she added.
Meet with the PM and Sadhguru
Along with preparing for the challenges, Ramabai also considered it essential to meet the country's Prime Minister. "Before taking such a big step to travel alone around the world on a bike, I thought PM Modi must know about it, in case of any severity," she said. Talking about her meeting with the PM, she said, "He told me that god and the whole world are with me and I need not worry."
Ramabai, a follower of the popular spiritual leader, Sadhguru, and his initiative, 'Save Soil' and also could not start her journey before meeting him. "Although I was never in two minds for this, but still asked Sadhguru if I was doing something wrong, but he told me that such courage is important and I was not 'crazy' to do something like this and also that he is with me," she said. Apart from the verbal support, Sadhguru's organization has also decided to take care of Ramabai's stays and dinners at their Ashrams at several locations. Sadhguru's volunteers will also be present to provide any possible help to Ramabai during her stay.
'Bharat ki Beti'
Having spent all the savings on this initiative, Ramabai looks forward to financial support but uniquely. She has called for crowdfunding and asked everyone to put in just one rupee for her initiative. "I can never require more support if everyone donates even Rs 1," she said, adding that a lot of people have already contributed to her initiative, including the administration of Pune Metro.
Talking about the honours she received from her home state, Ramabai also recounted how she got the name 'Bharat ki Beti' at an event. "The Cheif Minister of Maharashtra, Eknath Shinde called me 'Maharashtra Chi Mulgi,' and while I felt pride hearing the words, I asked him to call me 'Bharat ki beti' as I want to represent my country and not just the state," Ramabai said as she prepared to restart her tour.